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Shea's plan for new elevator tower for main theater advances

Shea's Performing Arts Center is taking the first steps toward putting up a five-story addition to its primary theater to make it more accessible by adding two new elevators, expanded concessions and more office space.

The organization that operates Shea's Buffalo Theatre wants to put the structure on a parking lot at 439 Pearl St., just south of the theater building and adjacent to Theater Place.

The addition would provide better services and amenities to patrons and visitors, while also benefiting staff, according to documents filed with the Buffalo Preservation Board. It also would make it easier for those with disabilities to reach the mezzanine, loge and balcony levels.

"We wanted to see what we could do to improve the patron experience and provide, especially, for people with special needs," said Shea's President Emeritus Anthony C. Conte.

The structure would include a covered ground-level entrance and a bank of two elevators servicing all six floors, documents say. It would also have additional bathrooms on two floors, an expanded concessions area on the second floor and a meeting space on the third floor for corporate or private entertaining, the application added. It would include additional office space on the fourth floor, as well as mechanical and storage space on both the basement and fifth floor.

The $8 million project — which is funded by donations and a $1 million grant from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council — also covers a driveway and small parking lot for patrons in wheelchairs or "people who have difficulty," said Conte, who is still managing this project for Shea's after several years of planning despite having retired in 2015.

"It will allow them to drive into the lot, circle around and drop someone off at the portico," he said.

First, though, Shea's has to demolish a "rusted and worn" steel framework that sits above parked cars on the site. That requires Preservation Board approval. Except for one small roof connected to the adjacent building, the pavilion is not covered, does not protect the vehicles below and doesn't have a structural purpose, according to an engineering report.

Shea's officials have been working with representatives of the State Historic Preservation Office "to ensure that there is no detrimental effect on Shea's Buffalo Theatre," Conte wrote in the application. Conte said officials hope to begin removal this summer and start construction on the addition in 18 to 24 months, according to the application.

The Preservation Board approved the demolition Thursday, but the addition has to come back for a separate review.

Shea's gets $1 million grant for elevator tower

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The board on Thursday also approved plans by Abstract Architecture — on behalf of property owner Abdul J. Almasali — for $190,000 in renovations to a pair of historic multifamily apartment buildings at 134-136 North Pearl St. in Allentown to bring back a mixture of 10 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Work will include repairs and restoration of the brick masonry and stone foundation, replacement of the windows and roof, and replacement of the entry doors. A nine-space landscaped parking lot will also be added.

The building at 134 North Pearl, in the rear, was constructed with two floors in the late 1800s for the Peter Paul & Son stationery company, and it gained a third floor in the mid-1900s when it became an apartment building, according to a letter from Abstract's Michael Anderson. The properties were acquired in January for $425,000.

A rendering of the exterior of 134-136 North Pearl, following renovations. (Courtesy of Buffalo Preservation Board)

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The board also green-lighted a plan by Savarino Cos. to tear down an existing entry canopy and put up a new one at 95 Perry St., in the Cobblestone District. The five-story building is home to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, Buffalo Urban Development Corp., Empire State Development Corp., Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., Watts Architecture & Engineering, and some apartments.

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